Monday, July 27, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis: "Si Tacuisses, ..."

"Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses" - if you had kept your silence, you would have stayed a philosopher. Or as a Minister said to the British Prime Minister in a satirical British sitcom: "If you'd kept your mouth shut we might have thought you were clever."

These quotes have passed through my mind of late whenever I heard/read yet another pronouncement by the former Greek Finance Minister. The latest episode is the teleconference call with members of international hedge funds which the Ekathimerini made public. According to the Ekathimerini, Varoufakis had been advised that the call was being recorded when it began.

Was it an attempted 'financial coup', as some have called it, that a team was assigned to work on a parallel currency, perhaps even on Grexit? Not at all! On the contrary, given the turbulences of the last 6 months, I would have considered it irresponsible not to examine and evaluate all alternatives. Like a Plan B or Plan C. Was it unacceptable that the Finance Minister repeatedly denied when asked about the existence of a Plan B? Not really. As we know since Jean-Claude Juncker publicly revealed it: "When things get really serious, you have to lie". Obviously, one shouldn't publicly reveal it but, instead, get the job done quietly.

What shocked me was the absolutely careless way in which Varoufakis reported on the issue. When the coordinator of the call, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, reminded him that "there are certainly others listening", Varoufakis responded "I know. I know they are. And even if they do (i. e. tell others about it), I will deny I said it". Well, at long last we have an explanation why Varoufakis was so adamant after the 'fingergate' that "I never gave the finger. I've never given the finger ever. It was a gesture I've never made in my life" (only to post a video the next day which proved that he had given the finger).

This issue that the Finance Minister would not have access to information (i. e. tax numbers) managed in a division of the Finance Ministry will hopefully be further explained by the media. The way Varoufakis explains it sounds simply too far-fetched. If only the Troika had control over revenues, why would the Troika have insisted for months to get up-to-date data about tax revenues? How could the Finance Ministry control the payment of public bills when it had no control over revenues?

Be that as it may, having childhood friends can come useful, particularly if they have meanwhile become IT professors in the USA. And particularly if they know how to hack computers. So, Varoufakis continues, he approached this childhood friend and "we decided to hack into my Ministry's own software program in order to be able to break it up to just copy, just to copy the code of the tax system's website onto a large computer in his office so that he can work out how to design and implement this parallel payment system."

Leaving aside the question of whether the parallel payment system which Varoufakis and his team had come up with was a good idea or not (I think it was close to a joke), it is simply mind-boggling that a former Finance Minster, barely out of office, would officially go on record for the above. And when a self-declared champion of democracy and rule of law does it, one's mind ceases to comprehend. Greece's State of Law may not be as good as some wish it to be but I would assume that hacking is against the law in Greece as it is everywhere else.

Varoufakis now claims that all this fuss about the teleconference call is that "they want to present me as a rogue Finance Minister". Well, if hacking - and/or inducing a university professor to hack - is against the law, then 'rogue' is too polite an expression.

On his third-month anniversary as Finance Minister, when I had begun to realize that Varoufakis had embarked on a totally wrong track, I sent him the following email: "Form now carries more weight than substance. Humility, which the ancient Greek philosophers wrote so much about, is required because, as Bill Gates once said: 'Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking that they cannot lose'".

Bill Gates was right.


  1. (1) Well, I do not think somehow, that Varoufakis will have been "careless" to report that issue to the assembled hedge fund managers. He would know fully well, that anything mentioned to them in a telephone conversation would sooner or later come out. And so it proved.

    (2) Then, "hacking". Hacking into other people's software might be against the law, but here the government is copying computer code from one government computer to the other.

    "Hacking" the way Varoufakis uses it is used more colloquially to describe a way to get around a computer code. I worked on a software project once and the database adminstrator was called a "hacker" because he would always use shortcuts to get the thing running if it broke down. Now that database admin person only worked on our own server, and only did things to our system. I think that is the way "hacking" is used here, too.

    (3) Fingergate affair. I thought that had all been cleared up, and the video of Varoufakis was indeed doctored by some German satirical TV show, so that it looked like he showed the finger, but he had not. It is all on Varoufakis website. Or on You tube. Or have I missed something?

    1. Yes, you have missed something about fingergate. The video shown on ARD had NOT been doctored. A German satirical TV show later made a fake where they pretended that the finger had never existed, how they had doctored the finger into it and how they fooled ARD into buying it. The satirical video was so good that just about everyone fell for it (including Varoufakis who immediately called for an apology from ARD). It caused such an uproar that the originators quickly had to announce that it had been a satirical fake. If I am not mistaken, the master of the show was even reprimanded.

      The video shown on ARD was about 6 minutes and the entire speech was almost one hour. The 6 minutes were uninterrrupted and unedited, i. e. definitely not "doctored", as Varoufakis claimed. True is that the 6 minutes would have made a lot better sense if one had put them into the context of the entire speech.

      What no one understood was Varoufakis reaction the next day. He put a video of the full 1-hour speech on twitter and commented: "And here is the 'undoctored' by the unscrupulous media's video". The trouble is that this 'undoctored video' showed the same finger as the ARD video had shown. No one understood the point he was trying to make. An apology without making it?

      Below is the take I had on fingergate at the time.

    2. "If I am not mistaken, the master of the show was even reprimanded."
      You are mistaken, the TV-station ZDF was quite proud of Böhmermann and his team. The irony drops out of the excuse: "Um die Debatte um das Video satirisch zuzuspitzen, „haben Jan Böhmermann und seine Redaktion die Möglichkeiten der Video-Manipulation sehr anschaulich dargestellt“, heißt es von Seiten des ZDF. Und Programmdirektor Norbert Himmler ergänzte: „Wir sehen uns gezwungen, das Neo Magazin Royale zukünftig als Satiresendung zu kennzeichnen. Für die Moderation des „heute journals“ wird Jan Böhmermann sicherheitshalber vorerst ausgeschlossen“
      Böhmermann was also responsible for "V for Varoufakis" and "Our precious Euros" in the last weeks. If interested, all three videos can be seen with english and greek subtitles:
      V for Varoufakis:
      UNSERE SCHÖNEN DEUTSCHEN EUROS – Our precious German Euros:

    3. Thank you for clearing this up once and for all for me, I did not know what to believe any more in this. (which just shows, how easy it is to manipulate people)

      So he did show the finger, in relation to what Greece should have done in 2010, and long before he was a Finance Minister - it would not have crossed his mind then, that he possibly could be one day.

      So he can claim he did not want to give Germany the finger (in relation to what Greece should do now!)

      And Germany and the German viewers of the talkshow Guenther Jauch can claim he did, (as they just ignore that it was meant to reflect the Greek position in 2010) !

      Is that about correct?

  2. Firstly, I adhere with what you wrote above.
    Secondly, YV presenting this as a plan B makes no sense to me.
    Plan B for what?

    Bank shutdown with no grexit?
    If the banks were suddenly shutdown and the customer balances frozen for a while, then govt would credit its suppliers and public servants with those tax credits/IOUs. What of the other people/ companies? How long before the IOUs reach them through economic exchanges? Non-public servants would soon eat grass when their under the mattress money run out. Suppliers who import their goods would also be forced to discontinue their business with the state.

    Plan B for Grexit?
    Also non-sense. People/companies would still need to access their assets in the bank (converted to GRD) to carry out their activity. And restart trade with foreign third parties.

    So, the plan only offer additional liquidity/pseudo-money creation to the state if other payment systems continue to operate normally. At best, it is a plan B for the government if EU/IMF do not disburse new program money.

  3. You should not be too harsh toward Yanis.
    He obviously has a narcissistic personality disorder. And you can't take ill and disabled people fully responsible for their actions.
    You only can try to learn how to handle them. Here are some proposals:

    1. Actually, you can hold people with disabilities responsible for their actions. Please do - people like us, above all, value our independence and getting respected as contributing member of society. The only time you can argue for an exception is when the disability interferes with our mental capacity for exercising judgment, which is not the case for the vast majority.

    2. If you show to the actions of Yanis, is there any doubt that his mental capacity for exercising judgement was limited? He is a typical narcissists, like shown in the link:
      1. Self-absorbed and lacks empathy. Acts like everything is all about them and is uninterested in you or others.
      2. Entitled and demanding. Makes the rules, breaks the rules, and is aggressive about what they want.
      3. Perfectionistic and conceited. Have rigidly high standards for you and lord their superiority over you.
      4. Seeks own adoration and is unremorseful. Demands constant praise and recognition, but will never offer genuine praise or apologies.

      Narcissists are "legends in their own minds". That's their disability, so we should feel sorry for them, forgive them - and avoid offering them too important jobs.

    3. Hmmm... Don't be hard on someone that made a 30 bill damage because he's a narcissist? I think I will pass.

      So, should we not be hard on Tsipras because he is an idiot that took 10 years to finish college and does not know what he is doing or the Greek voter that has no clue about the economy and votes whomever shows up on TV?


    4. Hi Roger,

      Here is the cost of living site i found. It is really quite interesting to compare countries.

      Here is some information (disinformation?) on the airport tax court ruling.

      Here is a statement made by the airport itself...

      I don;t really know what is up with this.


    5. Hochtief: Hmm, if a company (like this airport) puts such an statement online in septembre 2014 and it has not been grilled for in in the meantime, IMHO there is a good chance they tell the truth. Otherwise I would really wonder why Syriza, at their climax of anti-German-policy (that is quite over now), did not use this example to smear a German company.

      Prices: Thank you for that map. But to be true I dont understand it. Are the numbers to be compared in linear or logarithmic way? Usually I know CPI to be compared in a linear way, but then IMO the differences between cheap and expensive countries are too small.
      Nevertheless, Greek cities seem to be more expensive than any Eastern European City - that sounds wrong to me. And Athen (57.23) seems to be even close to a German city like Dresden (59,82). That sounds strange as incomes are said to be low in Greece so service costs should be cheap as well.
      Is Greece that expensive? If yes, why it is so? How can you slash the prices to improve the live of the people?

      Regarding Yanis: I suppose there are two reasons Germans are not funny. Firstly our subtle and dark sarcasm is often misunderstood by strangers (look at Matt Usselmann and the finger fake in these comments as a second it toward strangers.
      Sorry confusing you, I lost my manners.

  4. After resignation Varufakis became an embittered chatterbox.

    Adding together what looks credible, I come to the conclusion that
    he and Tsipras have handled like bloody amateurs trying to excel with a heart transplantation executed behind a squalid curtain.

    Of course the poor patient dyed, but of course this is Germanys fault.

    H. Trickler

  5. In January I had commented that I will no longer follow the Greek tragedy if by End of July Grexit does not happen.

    This intention arouse because I was (and still am) convinced that Grexit is the only possibility how Greece eventually can recover. Not that I would think this being a simple route, but it would make sure that

    a) Greece immediately regains it's dignity and sovereignty.

    b) The smear campaign against Germany and the EU can no longer be fed.

    c) Greek currency devaluates which makes exports and tourism more attractive without changing the internal wages.

    d) Greek wages, pensions etc. no longer correspond to the high levels that are not justified comparing with Portugal, Baltic countries, Balkan states and evt. Bulgaria.

    Of course imports become more expensive, which enables the Greek agriculture to sell their production instead of ever increasing wasteland. Greece would be forced to close bankrupt banks, only credit balances up to € 50'000 per person being insured by the state.

    I do not think that this would be a tragedy because all cautious persons have withdrawn their money.

    If Schäuble has asked Varoufakis in March how much money Greece asked for going the Grexit way, I really can not understand why this last resort has not been discussed and implemented by July.


    1. Although i was an advocate of Grexit a few months weeks back and coupled with the controled grexit by various, i am now against it.

      Mainly for two reasons. 1st because it would be a disaster which is unconcievably and unforesseable. and 2nd Greece can only reform if there is a watch dog. It is as simple as that.

      In reply to your points.
      a. What dignity? In or out it is a disaster to our dignity. Sovereignty? As that exists anymore any where?
      b. Who is doing the smearing?
      c. What would the exchange rate be? 1 euro to 1 million drachmas? Attract what tourism? With 60% of the population in poverty who would be attracted to come?
      d. Our wages would by the lowest by comparison of value not just of the eu but will be even much less than some african nations.


  6. Yanis Varoufakis serenade's Alexis Tsipras

    Isn't it rich, aren't we a pair?
    Me here at last on the ground,
    You in mid-air
    Send in the clowns?

    Isn't it bliss, don't you approve?
    One who keeps tearing around,
    One who can't move...
    Where are the clowns? Send in the clowns.

    Just when I'd stopped opening doors,
    Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours.
    Making my entrance again with my usual flair
    Sure of my lines... but no one is there.

    Don't you love farce? My fault, I fear.
    I thought that you'd want what I want...
    Sorry, my dear! But where are the clowns
    There ought to be clowns,

    Isn't it rich, isn't it queer?
    Losing my timing this late in my career.
    And where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns...
    Quick send in the clowns, don't bother, they're here.

    Songwriters - Sondheim, Stephen

    No need to satirise, Sondheim's words fit the bill perfectly.


  7. Some interesting observations revealing what happened during the past 6 months from Varoufakis point of view.

  8. Here a pretty complete and imho objective summary of what had happened:


  9. Mr. Kastner,

    I like your take on the matters and basically agree with you. But as you are here in Greece, for the last 3 days they have been analyzing this new Varoufakis issue to death. Why? And why are they not asking the most obvious question. Why would a politician come out and say he did something aside from the "Plan B", which is correct and should have left it at that, that he did something illegal. Especially in a forum where he knew it would get out to the public? It is incriminating but he still does it?

    Many people think he is a stupid person or a stupid genius as you nicely put it above.

    For me he is quite smart and also a smart ass. And his arrogant attitude makes things worse. It is as if he has a chip on his shoulder and almost like there is a earthly god protecting him. He acts as if he has a "get out jail free card."

    Honestly, i do not trust anybody anymore and to be honest i feel more like a sheep being guided to the slaughter. Varoufakis to me is a smoke screen. And i believe it now that this is what his job was from the beginning, to take all heat and attention off of the issues that matter. I really do not know where this story goes but i would like to say that the actors in this play are horrible.


  10. Investment managers are now sitting on the top of the fence pondering what side to come down on. "Are they all as unpredictable raving mad as this man (and Lafazanis), or are they all as gullible as the stumbling fool who employed him". Invest in Greece.